America, America, the nation whose children shoot dead their fellow children. Why do they not understand? Why do they deny they have a problem, or acknowledge the problem but appear to be impotent to address it? Why? Because America is an addict, addicted to guns.
In the UK, we do not share this addiction, cannot comprehend it. But we are also addicted, to alcohol. It is routine for me to hear someone say, with no remorse, I have no memory of how I got from where I was drinking to where I was sleeping, no memory of the night before.
The two different addictions share a root desire, our deep desire for oblivion. The weight of the world, the demands placed upon us, the burden of a seemingly incessant present and a seemingly unrewarding future, all this pushes us to the edge of the abyss. We stand on the edge, look over, and take a step forward. Sometimes we jump pre-emptively.
The thing is, the desire for oblivion is built into the fabric of creation, by design. Sleep is oblivion. The sun sleeps by night, and the moon and the stars by day. Winter, spring, summer and autumn all sleep for three seasons (though we’ve ****ed that up). And Sabbath is a particular form of oblivion, a weekly rest from the clamour.
The difference between Sabbath practices and addictive behaviour is relationship, the recognition that oblivion with another, with an Other, is as healing as oblivion alone is wounding. That is why members of recovery groups acknowledge up front their need for a higher power, not to fix them (note the confession, ‘I am an alcoholic,’ not, ‘I was an alcoholic’) but to be with them. That is also why the Church has developed, over centuries, patterns of stopping, to pray, to yield, to trust.
We still struggle, of course. Just yesterday, hours before news of the latest school shooting across the Atlantic, I confessed to someone that at times I get so wound up that I am very glad I have no access to assault rifles and ammunition. I was not being flippant, nor seeking to shock. I am no different from others. We still struggle: but, trusting that nothing in all creation can separate me from the love of God that is fully expressed in Jesus, who will never forsake me, I choose to receive the oblivion my soul longs for, and the life that will flow out of it again. May it be for a blessing, not for me alone but for those who cross my path.